By enshrining the principle of religious freedom in Maryland’s constitution, Charles Carroll hoped to better the prospects of Catholics like himself. Indeed, he saw toleration as the only logical policy for governments to adopt.
Designing and selfish men invented religious tests to exclude from posts of profit and trust their weaker or more conscientious fellow subjects, thus to secure to themselves all ye emoluments of Government. —Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1774
A cold rain fell on the grounds of The College of Louis the Great in Bourges, France, as an American law student strolled across the campus. Twenty-one-year-old Charles Carroll was opening the letter that had just arrived from his father in Maryland. Charley’s eyes eagerly took in the words written in Papa’s familiar scroll. Soon, however, his face dropped. Once again, his father was discussing his plan to leave the colony and begin life anew in the French-owned Louisiana Territory, where, he hoped, the family could escape the anti-Catholicism of Protestant-controlled Maryland. He informed Charley that he had sold lands totaling some 2000 pounds in order to liquidate his assets in preparation for the move. The event that had given rise to Papa’s plan was the Maryland legislature’s passage in 1756 of the Militia Act, which required Catholics to pay a double land tax for the support of the colony’s militia—the twisted logic of the act being that Catholics, because they were barred by law from serving in the militia, should be compelled to substitute money for service. Though the law had been passed three years earlier, the prejudice of the Maryland Assembly, Papa declared, “is as inveterate as ever.” He asked his son, “Who would live among men of such dispositions that could live elsewhere?”
During the previous three years, the elder Carroll had kept his son informed of the progress of his plan, and, though initially ambivalent about the scheme, Charley had come to hope that his father would not proceed, for he was not eager to live under French rule. “If you repair to France there you will only exchange religious for civil Tyranny,” Charley warned his father, “and In my opinion of the two the greatest evil. Civil oppression has nothing to console us; religious persecutions are always attended with this consolation at least, of not going unrewarded.” He preferred “to live under English government rather than under any other: Catholick, I mean: for I know of no Catholick country where that greatest blessing, civil liberty is enjoyed.” With a troubled heart, Charley folded the letter—now wet from the raindrops—and headed toward the college chapel where Mass was about to begin.
Though he would ultimately remain in Maryland, Papa had a precedent in the actions of his own father, who in 1688 had fled religious intolerance and economic hardship in Ireland to find his fortune. The Carrolls were descended from Gaelic “princes” of the Irish midlands, who had skillfully amassed large landholdings through war and negotiation with rival clans and Anglo-Norman enemies. The ancient motto of the O’Carrolls of Ireland—In fide et bello fortes (“Strong in faith and war”)—was apt, for the clan engaged in conflict throughout much of its history, first in power struggles with rival clans, then in resistance to English political and religious domination. The branch of the clan that produced Charles Carroll of Carrollton was particularly noted for its faithful devotion to Roman Catholicism. Daniel Carroll of Ballymooney, for instance, led his kinsmen in the 1641 Irish rebellion against the forces of the English Parliamentary revolutionaries. Oliver Cromwell’s defeat of this Catholic uprising resulted in the impoverishment of many of the Carrolls, the vast majority of whom stubbornly refused to conform to the Protestant Church of Ireland. A Carroll who inherited this dual legacy of tenacity and deprivation was Daniel Carroll of Ballymooney’s grandson, who styled himself Daniel Carroll “of Aghahurty,” which in Gaelic means “field of hunger.” This Carroll had a son who died in 1690 fighting against William of Orange’s forces and two sons who emigrated to Maryland, one of whom became known as Charles Carroll the Settler, the grandfather of Charles Carroll of Carrollton.
“The family estate being greatly impaired by the iniquity of the times, which had stripped the most ancient Irish families of their property,” Charles Carroll of Carrollton later recalled of his grandfather, “he resolved to seek his fortune far distant from the scene of such oppressions. Being a Roman Catholick he pitched on Maryd where the free exercise of that religion & equal priveleges were granted to its professors by a royal Charter, afterwards confirmed by a perpetual law of this Province.” The remembered past of their experience in Ireland would play an important role for the Carrolls in America. At times, this memory was articulated openly in seemingly trivial matters, as when in 1719 the Settler instructed Charles’ father, then at St. Omer’s, to sign his thesis, “Marylando-Hibernus.” More often, however, the influence of their Old World experience was subtler and yet more profound and was evidenced by the fact that the Carrolls in the New World became the champions of civil and religious liberty for themselves and their coreligionists. In so doing, they would also, like their Irish forebears, become revolutionaries when separation from the mother country seemed to offer the prospect of enhanced liberty and equality for all Catholics.
As Charles Carroll stated in explaining the reasons for his grandfather’s exodus from Ireland, economic and religious motives went hand-in-hand in the Settler’s decision to emigrate to America. The promise of religious liberty meant the opportunity for social advancement, and by climbing the social ladder and ensconcing themselves within the upper crust of colonial society, the Settler hoped to win social acceptance for the Carrolls and their coreligionists. Despite the constant temptation of apostasy, the Carrolls of America, like most of the O’Carrolls of Ireland, stubbornly refused to take the easy road to social advancement. Significantly, upon coming to America, the Settler changed the family crest and its motto from In fide et bello fortes to Ubicumque cum libertate (“Anywhere so long as there be freedom”) as a signal of his clan’s desire to live in liberty. Though his abandonment of the unyielding maxim suggested that the Settler would pursue a less abrasive relationship with Protestants, this was not the case as his actions soon proved.
The Settler had good reason to believe that Maryland would provide a hospitable environment in which to stake his family’s fortune. The colony was a proprietorship under the control of the Catholic Calvert family, who had encouraged a policy of religious toleration from the initial settlement in 1634. Cecil Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, had founded Maryland as a refuge for his coreligionists and as an economic venture, and he knew that the colony’s success in this latter respect depended on attracting Protestant settlers to the colony since not a sufficient number of British Catholics was willing and able to emigrate. To this end, the Catholic-controlled Maryland Assembly passed Toleration Acts in 1639 and 1649 that provided for the separation of church and state and guaranteed religious freedom to all Christians. Toleration for the Calverts was thus both principle and pragmatism. The policy proved to be a success: Protestants constituted a majority of Marylanders from the day the Ark and the Dove landed on St. Clement’s Island in 1634, and the colony quickly became economically prosperous.
Despite the minority status of their coreligionists, the Lords Baltimore ensured that Catholics would control the government of the colony through the proprietor’s power of appointment. He appointed the governor and all other high-ranking colonial officials and chose the members of the upper house of the bicameral legislature, who also constituted the governor’s council. Into the late seventeenth century, Catholics continued to occupy the upper positions of colonial government. Between the years 1666-1689, at least fourteen of the twenty-seven members of the council were professed Catholics, and twelve of these were related by blood or marriage to the proprietor. Since 1682, only Catholics had been appointed to the upper house, so that by 1689, six of the eight councilors were Catholics. These same men occupied other high offices of government, such as the judiciary above the county level, thereby controlling much of the patronage.
By contrast, Protestants dominated the lower house of the legislature, which consisted of twenty-two members elected by men of the colony who met a modest property qualification. But Maryland Protestants were content neither with their control of the lower house nor with their domination of county and local offices. An additional irritant was the disproportionate wealth of the Catholic population. Though most Catholics, who comprised less than ten percent of the citizenry, were modest landholders, Catholic families owned ten of the twenty largest fortunes in the colony. The accession of the Protestant monarchs, William and Mary, to England’s throne in 1688-1689 provided Maryland’s Protestants with an opportunity to redress these economic and political inequities. Led by the agitator John Coode, rebellious forces overthrew the government of Lord Baltimore and succeeded in having the Crown transform Maryland into a royal colony. Henceforth, the power of government appointment would be the monarch’s, and the Calvert proprietors would be deprived of all political authority until 1715.
It must have seemed an ironic twist of fate to Charles Carroll that his prospects as a Catholic suddenly seemed as bleak in the New World as in the old one he had fled. He had come to Maryland as attorney-general in the proprietary government, but the revolution in government meant that he would be deprived of this post, as Catholics were immediately excluded from officeholding altogether, a development that mirrored their plight in England. Indeed, a desire on the part of Protestant men of property to have positions of profit open to their coreligionists was at the heart of Coode’s uprising. By 1704, the Protestant Assembly had also passed legislation that prohibited Catholics from worshiping publicly and operating schools for their children. But Carroll refused to resign himself to the Protestant ascendancy in Maryland, nor did he intend to scale back his hopes for social advancement. His public questioning of the new government’s legitimacy landed him in jail briefly on two occasions in 1691 and 1693. At the same time, he continued to advance his fortune through his activities as a lawyer in the private service of Charles Calvert, by marrying well, and through his success as a planter, banker, and merchant. By 1715, he had established himself as a leader among the colony’s Catholic elite.
In that same year, the Crown restored the proprietorship of Maryland to the Calvert family, the necessary condition of the act being Benedict Leonard Calvert’s self-serving conversion to Protestantism. Carroll saw the transfer of power as an opportunity for himself and his fellow Catholics to reclaim their rights and liberties, and he led a group of prominent Catholics who mounted a challenge to the strictures placed on those of the Roman faith. Carroll himself became involved in a bitter personal struggle with the Protestant Governor of Maryland, John Hart. But Hart and his Protestant allies beat back the Catholic challenge, and Protestants in the Maryland Assembly retaliated by passing legislation in 1718 depriving Catholics of the right to vote and further hampering their ability to practice their faith. When Charles Carroll the Settler died in 1720, his descendants inherited not only the fortune he had amassed but also the political disabilities that would burden Catholics for more than five decades.
Only four of his ten children survived the Settler. Of these, all but one son were dead by 1739. The sole surviving heir was Charles, who would proceed to establish himself as one of the most prosperous citizens of Maryland. Though the legal strictures against Catholics were certainly onerous, this Charles sought to transcend them by augmenting the family fortune, hoping thereby to attain economic power that could not be ignored by Protestant society. Inasmuch as officeholding and the practice of the law were closed to Catholics, Charles continued the family tradition of planting tobacco and making loans, but he also branched out into industry, becoming one of the founders of the profitable Baltimore Iron Works Company. He soon achieved economic success; by 1735 he presided over a five-thousand-acre estate in Prince George’s County and in that year built an impressive brick mansion along the banks of Annapolis’ harbor.
Charles Carroll of Annapolis was determined that the fortune that he and his father had worked to accumulate would never fall into the hands of “a strange Family” or be squandered after his death. In 1734, when his brother Daniel died, Charles became the only surviving son of the Settler, and Daniel’s five-year-old son the other male in the family line. Perhaps the desire to insure that the family name be perpetuated led Charles to decide that it was time to produce an heir. But he realized that marriage entailed certain risks to the settlement of his estate if his wife survived him. Because a widow was entitled by law to one-third of her husband’s assets, a widowed Mrs. Carroll would be an attractive prospect to Protestant as well as Catholic men and would likely bring a considerable part of the family fortune into a new marriage. Charles Carroll attempted to preclude this possibility by taking, at some point in the 1730s, his cousin Elizabeth Brooke into his home and bed without the benefit of marriage.
This common law relationship conferred no dower rights upon the woman, and it also meant that the son Charles, born on September 8, 1737, possessed no right of inheritance. As a bastard under English common-law practice, Charley was filius nullius, “the son of no one,” and consequently, he could inherit his father’s estate only if the elder Carroll named him in his will, something Papa did in 1759 after Charley proved himself “a worthy heir.” Not even his father’s subsequent marriage to his mother in February of 1757 altered his legal status. By foregoing a proper civil marriage and thereby denying both his wife and son the right of inheritance, Papa hoped to exert complete control over his estate and prevent it from being dissipated or falling into the hands of his Protestant antagonists.
Carroll’s decision to enter a common law marriage is somewhat puzzling. The wealthy Marylander apparently took his faith seriously throughout his life, and yet he “lived in sin” for more than twenty years with a woman not his wife. Canon law had long recognized the validity of clandestine marriages contracted by couples without the benefit of a priest. Indeed, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, marriage is unique among the seven sacraments in that it does not depend on a priest for its validity but is conferred by the participants on each other. Catholics living under persecution in Protestant nations, including Ireland, had often contracted clandestine marriages to avoid advertising their religion to the authorities. Because of the problems associated with clandestine marriage, however, the Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century declared that for a marriage to be valid, the presence of a priest and two witnesses was required.
Carroll’s motive in foregoing a valid marriage obviously had nothing to do with keeping his faith a secret. Nevertheless, it is possible that he relied on the pre-Tridentine tradition to keep his union unofficial in terms of Maryland law. Carroll’s mindset was that of a member of a persecuted religious minority, and like his Irish ancestors, he would have used any available means to protect himself and his property from the ruling powers. Though he doubtless recognized that the Church frowned upon such a private marriage, Carroll perhaps believed that the conditions of persecution in Maryland warranted the arrangement.
Alternatively, Carroll might have deemed living in sin for two decades a lesser evil than the family’s economic ruin. Though at least some friends of the Carrolls were aware of the impropriety of the marriage arrangement, it must not have been generally known. The Carrolls’ political enemies—particularly Daniel Dulany, who did not hesitate to use any available weapon against the family—did not make an issue of the fact that Charley was a bastard. Though it was socially acceptable for wealthy planters of the era to have affairs, Papa’s relationship with Elizabeth was out of the ordinary and, as a Catholic couple, especially risky, because it made them easy targets for bigoted Protestants. In all likelihood, then, the marriage arrangement was kept quiet. Whether fellow Catholics who attended Mass with Papa and Elizabeth, or priests who ministered to them, were aware of the situation cannot be known.
An only child, Charley was fully aware of his illegitimacy, and he knew that he had to please his father if he wished to become the heir to the family fortune one day. Thus Charley dutifully followed his father’s wishes in his program of education, which until the age of twenty-two, was directed by English Jesuit instructors. Papa first sent Charley to nearby Bohemia Academy, then in 1748 to St. Omer’s College in Flanders, a Jesuit institution that catered to the children of well-to-do Catholics from America and Britain, and at which Papa had been a student. After six years at St. Omer’s, Charley spent a year at the Jesuit college in Rheims studying poetry, and then for two years he studied philosophy in Paris, where he produced a thesis and received a degree in 1757. This program of education was in preparation for the study of the law, which Papa saw as the main weapon Charley would need to secure his rights and those of his coreligionists in the face of the animus of the Protestant powers of Maryland, men full of such “Malice that they would not only deprive us of our Property but our lives.” To that end, Charley spent more than a year at Bourges studying French and Roman civil law and five years in London, from 1759-1764, learning the common law. “I shall leave you to dispute many things of Consequence,” Papa told Charley, “which the present Injustice of the times will not permit me in prudence to contest.”
Though thousands of miles away, Charley was ever under his father’s careful supervision. In his letters to his son, the elder Carroll attempted to micromanage every aspect of his son’s life: his financial affairs, his studies, even his dress and dating habits. And Charley’s correspondence from Europe is suffused with the desire to please his father. At age thirteen, writing from St. Omer’s, Charley told his father that he was “extremely anxious to hear from you” and “much desirous to obey your commands.” At age twenty-six, while studying the law in England, Charley still sought to reassure his father of his filial fidelity. “I here solemnly promise,” the younger Carroll wrote, “never to marry without your full and free consent and approbation. I am Dear Papa Your most dutiful and affectionate Son.” For his part, Papa never let Charley forget the financial investment that was at stake. “All the Letters I have or shall write to you or concerning any o[ne] are carefully entred in a Book,” Papa informed his fifteen-year-old son, “so that in case you should be so unfortunate [as to] return not improved in proportion to the Money Time and Care laid out on you [they] will at least be undeniable Testimonies of my Attention to your Welfare and a Cons[tant] Reproach to you for not corresponding on your part to that attention.” The lesson was not lost on the younger Carroll. “I own I cost you a deal of money,” he lamented to his parents in 1759, “more than I shall be worth.”
Above all, Papa sought to shape his son’s moral and philosophical development. He encouraged Charley to pray regularly. “Business Company late hours &c gradually seem excuses for first Postponing & then neglecting our Prayers,” Papa warned in 1758, “& this Rampart being once overthrown it’s impossible to Enumerate the sad Train of Evils wch inevitably enter at the Breach.” “I observe my religious duties,” Charley assured his father. “If I practice what you teach, I shou’d not only be a compleat gentleman, but a good Christian, which is much the most important of the two.” To encourage his son in the faith, Papa recommended Catholic apologetics and devotional works to Charley. Religious devotion, in the elder Carroll’s mind, was essential to self-discipline, as was an adherence to reason. “Sight with our other Senses is bestow’d on us by Providence for Our Benefit and happiness,” Papa advised, “but it mus[t] be kept under the Dominion of Reason.” Charley agreed that reason was man’s supreme guide. “Reason was not given to man merely to restrain his passions, or merely to regulate his own actions, but to weigh & examin wether the actions he is sollicited or commanded by others to perform, are such as can stand the scrutiny & sentence of an unerring, if unprejudiced, Judge.”
That both Carrolls extolled reason has been cited as evidence of the influence of the Enlightenment on their thought. And it is certainly true that Papa and Charley read and admired the writings of some Enlightenment thinkers. Under the Jesuits, the younger Carroll imbibed the works of such philosophers as Locke and Montesquieu, and his library contained their writings as well as more controversial ones listed on the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books, works by such authors as Jean de la Fontaine and Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire. Charley could at times sound like a philosophe, particularly in his denunciation of the Jesuits, about whom he obviously had mixed feelings. “No one has a greater regard for the Jesuits than myself,” he wrote to Papa in 1761. “I revere the virtue, I esteem the learning, I respect the apostolic labours of individuals but am forced to acknowledge their institute & plan of government liable to great abuses.” Charley went on to defend the French government’s persecution of the Society, deeming “dangerous to the state a body of men who implicitly believe the dictates of one Superior, & are carried on to the execution of his orders with a blind impetuosity of will & eagerness to obey without the least enquiry or examination.” On another occasion, Charley opined to Papa that if men of republican principles replaced Jesuits in the French Parliament, within a generation France would be known for its love of liberty.
Though they were in many ways disciples of the Age of Reason, the Carrolls rejected the Enlightenment’s central tenet: that faith and reason are antithetical. Instead, the Carrolls adhered to the Catholic idea of the compatibility of faith and reason. Papa expressed this view most clearly in a letter of 1762 to Charley, then studying the law in London. “Wt. Ever a man may grant, wt: ever Rules he may lay down, wt: ever Doctrines he may profess,” Papa wrote, “if they be inconsistent with reason & Contrary to Morality Justice & Religion they are in themselves void & can have no ill Effect.” In their belief that reason and religion supported each other, Papa and Charley demonstrated their debt to the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and his intellectual disciples. Indeed, Thomistic thought formed the centerpiece of the Jesuit education that the Carrolls had received. Aquinas taught that God wrote on the hearts of man the natural law, which he could come to discern through the use of his reason. The natural law was to guide man in his actions and ought to constitute the basis of all positive law. God’s revelation, according to Aquinas, complemented man’s reason. Though Charley did not own any works by Aquinas or such prominent Thomists as the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish Jesuits, Francisco Suarez and Juan de Mariana, there is little doubt that the basic principles of Thomism shaped his worldview and made him aware that the celebration of man’s reason was not an Enlightenment invention.
What the Carrolls found attractive in the Enlightenment was its promotion of the idea of toleration. “I am a warm friend of toleration,” Charley declared to his Protestant friend William Graves. This principle was obviously useful to Catholics who labored under the prejudice of Protestant rule, and in embracing it, the Carrolls were surely influenced by an intellectual movement among English Catholics in the late eighteenth century that sought to reconcile some of the political principles of the Enlightenment with Catholic teaching. The thinkers of the so-called Cisalpine school championed the separation of church and state, toleration, and reasonable religious belief and constituted a reaction against Ultramontanism, which advocated the joining of political and religious authority and emphasized unquestioning obedience. But this Catholic Enlightenment in no way countenanced the Enlightenment’s assault on religion. As serious Catholics, then, the Carrolls of necessity qualified their interest in the writings of Enlightenment thinkers. Doubtless, Voltaire’s case for toleration pleased both Carrolls, but the philosophe’s assault on Christianity just as surely irked them. Writing to Papa from Paris in 1759, Charley admitted that, though he detested false or excessive piety, “I equally abhor those who laugh at all devotion, look upon our religion as a fiction, & see its holy misteries as the greatest absurdities.” Certainly, Voltaire was one of these detractors. And the thinkers of the Enlightenment would have chafed at Charley’s belief that “the principal object” of government “should be the preservation of morals.”
Indeed, both Carrolls took their faith seriously. “I observe my religious duties,” Charley wrote Papa from London in 1759, “I trust in the mercy of God not my own merits, which are none, & hope he will pardon my daily offences. . . . I love him tho far less than his infinite goodness deserves & I could wish to do.” And Charley remained a practicing Catholic his entire life. He either prayed or went to Mass every morning, contributed to Catholic charities, and supported the development of the Church in America, being one of the charter subscribers to Catholic publisher Matthew Carey’s American edition of the Bible. The elder Carroll too, despite his flirtation with the Enlightenment, remained a loyal Catholic, if not always a model one. Papa adhered to traditional Catholic teaching, read apologetics, and maintained chapels at his estates at Doughoregan and in Annapolis, which served Catholics of all classes. Papa was, indeed, more wary than was his son of criticizing the Church. For instance, he took Charley to task for the young man’s criticism of the Jesuits’ supposedly blind obedience; Papa insisted that members of the Society were men of “Merit & Virtue.” “I have I thank God been bred among them,” he told Charley in 1762, “& if you do wt: they have taught you & nothing contrary to it, you will be happy here & hereafter.”
Despite his occasional outbursts against the Jesuits, Charley also recognized the salutary influence their instruction had on his life. Not only did his Jesuit teachers guide him in morality, but they had also shaped his political opinions. Though on one occasion he did portray the Society as an enemy of freedom, Charley in another instance deemed his Jesuit teachers to be “men of republican principles” who inspired their charges “with a love of liberty.” Under the Jesuits at St. Omer’s, young Charley had read the works of the great Roman authors—Cicero, Virgil, Tacitus, and Livy—and from his study of the ancients he came to believe that the dialectic that drove history was the struggle between liberty and power. “The ancients thought, at least the wisest ancients,” Carroll mused as a student, “that the property, Liberty, and safety of individuals cou’d not be too secure from power and its natural ally, injustice.”
Charley’s Jesuit teachers also championed the political ideas of the Thomists Suarez and Mariana, who justified political resistance, even tyrannicide, and who advocated theories of popular sovereignty and contractual government. Aquinas himself had sanctioned resistance to unjust laws. “Man is bound to obey secular princes in so far as this is required by the order of justice,” he wrote in his Summa Theologica. “Wherefore if the prince’s authority is not just but usurped, or if he commands what is unjust, his subjects are not bound to obey him.” Any human law that deviated from natural law, Aquinas proposed, “is no longer a law but a perversion of law.” When considering whether to support revolution against Great Britain, the Carrolls must have recalled Aquinas’ teachings, which had constituted an important part of the program of education—the Ratio Studiorum—at St. Omer’s.
Contemporary Protestant opinion, believing Catholics to be incapable of championing political liberty, tended to equate Catholicism with tyranny. The writings of such Catholics as the Frenchman Jean Bodin, who advocated absolutism, buttressed this notion. The works of Suarez and Mariana were largely ignored by Whigs on both sides of the Atlantic in part because of the lack of English translations, but mainly because of anti-Catholic prejudice. Even those Protestant thinkers who were aware of Thomistic political theory were loath to acknowledge their intellectual debt to Catholicism. The seventeenth-century English republican theorist Algernon Sidney, for example, in his Discourses Concerning Government, simultaneously quoted from the Thomists while belittling their importance. For their theories of limited government and legitimate resistance, Protestants instead turned to Sidney, the Calvinists John Knox and John Milton, or to John Locke, whose unsavory Deist sympathies were tempered by his anti-Catholic views. Locke explicitly argued that Catholics should be deprived of civil rights because of the dangers they posed to the commonwealth. The common perception, then, in both England and America from the time of Henry VIII’s break with Rome was that Catholics were untrustworthy citizens who possessed a dual loyalty.
It was the intensity of this prejudice that often discouraged both Carroll pere et fils. Studying the law in England in the early 1760s, and frustrated at the plight of his coreligionists, the younger Carroll reconciled himself to the fact that English society would for the foreseeable future exclude Catholics from political office. He found solace in the idea that because “posts of dignity & profit are almost incompatible with virtue they are not desirable & their Possessors rather slaves more worthy of hatred than envy.” At least Roman Catholics had the advantage of avoiding the attendant corruption of officeholding, thereby remaining “honourable, honest, independent.” Upon returning to America in February of 1765, Charley confessed his wish to abandon public life for private pursuits. “So little is my ambition,” he told his English friends, “or my bent to retirement so strong,” that he planned to forego “all ambitious pursuits” and devote himself to the “improvement” of his family’s estate.
By concentrating on the accumulation of wealth, Charley hoped to secure personal independence if not political power. The Carrolls believed that the greatest value of money lay not in giving its possessor the power to buy material comforts, but, as Papa opined, in that “it makes one independent.” Charley held that wealth guaranteed one the “sweets of independence,” and like many southern landowners, he idealized “that manner of life which is least exposed to corruption, or endangered by faction. I mean that of a private gentleman, pursuing the amusements of agriculture.” “May I not enjoy as much happiness in this humble as in a more exalted station?” he asked, “Who so happy as an independent Man, and who more independent than a private gentleman?” Rejecting the pugnacious course of his grandfather, Charley decided to retire from the public fray and to pursue the vita contemplativa, a role to which he found himself by nature suited. He “resolved never to give myself the least concern about politicks but to follow the sensible advice given by Candid[e] to improve my own little spot to the utmost.” By so doing, he would then become “independent & I hope virtuous, for virtue & independency are seldom separate.”
Though his inclination to retire from the public arena was encouraged by the anti-Catholic spirit of English society, Charley viewed the apolitical life as positively appealing. Both he and his father had become convinced by the 1760s that the British political system had been corrupted. The elder Carroll traced the roots of this decay to the earlier part of the eighteenth century, when Robert Walpole had “Reduced Corruption into a Regular Sistem.” He warned his son that “if Government cannot be carried on without corruption, there is an end of ye Constitution; ye keeping up of forms may deceive ye multitude.” Charley was entirely sympathetic with Papa’s view, believing that English liberty was “already lost, or near expiring” and the English constitution “hastening to its final period of dissolution” as a consequence of its having been corrupted by “the symptoms of a general decay,” that had begun shortly after the Glorious Revolution. “I advise you,” he told an English friend during the Stamp Act crisis in 1765, “to sell your estate in England and to purchase lands in this province” where liberty would at least survive for a time. But Carroll added that even American society would one day be corrupted if “a dissoluteness of morals, luxury, and venality” overcame “the degenerate sons of some future age” and caused them “to prefer their own mean lucre, ye bribes, and the smiles of corruption and arbitrary ministers, to patriotism, to glory and to ye public weal.”
Charley’s disparagement of material excess revealed a tension in his thought. Though he shared to a degree the “old republican” political philosophy that emphasized the common good over personal profit, Carroll rejected the extreme notion embraced by radicals like Samuel Adams of Massachusetts that wealth was inherently evil. Carroll was, after all, a Catholic, not a Calvinist, and as such, he did not view man as thoroughly corrupted nor the material world as thoroughly corrupting. His views of wealth were probably influenced by such spiritual writings as those of St. Francis De Sales, whose Introduction to the Devout Life Papa owned and which was popular among Maryland’s Anglo-Irish community. De Sales did not condemn wealth but merely counseled that the rich were to maintain a “poverty of spirit.” Too, unlike the patriot leaders of Massachusetts, Carroll was a Southern slaveholder, and as such it was impossible for him to renounce his holding of slaves without calling into question the entire socio-economic system which supported his family’s position.
Like all members of their class, the Carrolls were concerned with acquiring the visible signs of their status, such as the latest styles in clothing and the finest housing. “I am resolved to live as becomes a gentleman,” young Charles declared in 1765. But living as a gentleman did not entail needless extravagance; rather, Charles added, it required the avoidance of “prodigality, and ostentation.” He insisted that he “would not accept my Father’s estate upon condition of consuming the annual profits, in gaudy equipages, empty pomp and show and in company more empty than these.”
Despite this aversion to excess, Carroll shared the social prejudices of his class, and his distaste for the lower classes colored his interpretation of Maryland politics. Viewing the Protestant majority of Maryland as an “ignorant, base, contemptible rabble,” Carroll attributed its motivation in depriving Catholics of their religious and political rights to an envy of the wealth of the colony’s Catholic elite. “Designing and selfish men,” he lamented, “invented religious tests to exclude from posts of profit and trust their weaker or more conscientious fellow subjects, thus to secure to themselves all ye emoluments of Government.” Suspicious of the motives of the Protestant powers of Maryland, Carroll, however, was also wary of the character of the opposition that arose in the wake of the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765. Carroll saw the patriots as a self-interested, unruly mob. “The clamor of the people out of doors,” he opined to his cousin Daniel in 1766, “proceeds from their ignorance, prejudice and passion; it is very difficult to get the better of these by reasoning.”
The Carrolls’ social elitism and their belief in the baseness of politics helped them to cope with the dashing of their aspirations to political power. Compelled to adopt a different tack, Charley contemplated retirement from Maryland politics, whereas Papa considered the more radical step of flight from the colony. During the Seven Years’ War of 1756-1763, which hampered the Carrolls’ commercial concerns, the elder Carroll devised a plan to sell his Maryland holdings and move his family to the French-owned Louisiana Territory. Though he sailed to Paris in 1757 in an attempt to complete negotiations for a tract of land in Louisiana, Papa ultimately gave up the project, telling his son in 1761 that “you are quite at liberty to fix where you please.” Despite his disgust with the religious climate in Maryland, Charley was usually more optimistic than his father about the prospects for Catholics in the colony. He hoped that eventually the “prejudices and animosity” of the colony’s Protestants would fade as they earned wealth by their own efforts, thus easing their “eager longing after other men’s property.”
Carroll’s cautious optimism was premised upon the idea that all citizens of Maryland could improve their economic situation. But the economic measures imposed by the London government in the wake of the Seven Years’ War—which, Carroll believed, had brought the British Empire “to the brink of ruin”—threatened this prosperity, and thus, in Charles Carroll’s mind, the chances for toleration in America. This was the motivation for the Carrolls’ return to involvement in colonial politics in the 1770s and their opposition to the laws passed by the English government in the decade following the war with France. It was also the reason that they sided with the American revolutionaries.
In casting their lot with the patriots the Carrolls embraced their Irish heritage. Resistance to tyranny was in their blood. In addition, the Carrolls were all too familiar with the plight of Catholics in Britain to hope for an amelioration of conditions there if they sided with the Loyalists. Parliament had in their experience often been the agent of oppression. Just as that body had usurped its authority by overthrowing James II in 1688 and had proceeded to destroy the liberty of Catholics, now it sought to extend its authority over the American colonies and put an end to civil liberty. Though he admitted to his father that a new American nation might eventually produce its own brand of tyranny, a British victory would certainly reduce America to “a second Ireland . . . governed by a military force and corrupt and venal governments.” The Carrolls’ support of the American revolutionaries led the way for other Catholics, the majority of whom also joined the patriot cause. The memory of Maryland’s revolution of government in 1690, in which the Crown sanctioned the reduction of Catholics to second-class status, was still powerful among Maryland’s tight-knit Catholic community.
Their English and Jesuit schooling also influenced the Carrolls to choose revolution. In decrying the abuses of power committed by government officials, Charley, for example, employed the language of the English Oppositionists, seventeenth-century radicals who feared the use of power by those in authority. “Government was instituted for the general good,” Charley wrote in 1773, “but Officers instructed with its powers, have most commonly perverted them to the selfish views of avarice and ambition; hence the Country and Court interests, which ought to be the same, have been too often opposite, as must be acknowledged and lamented by every true friend to Liberty.” The English natural rights school of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes fused nicely with the Aristotelian-Thomistic natural law tradition, which stressed that, as God’s creatures, all men possessed dignity and were entitled to certain rights. Parliament’s usurpations violated the political principles of Aquinas, who had championed a “mixed constitution,” and Montesquieu, who in his Spirit of the Laws had stressed the importance of the separation of powers in government. In his study of the common law, Charley had read William Blackstone, who had made the case for the natural law in his celebrated Commentaries on the Laws of England. “Upon these two foundations,” Blackstone had written, echoing Aquinas, “the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws; that is to say no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.” In 1773, Carroll would cite natural law in opposing what he perceived to be an attempt by the Maryland executive to usurp the authority of the legislature.
In 1773, Charles Carroll of Carrollton dramatically reentered the public arena by engaging in a heated debate in the Maryland Gazette with Daniel Dulany, Jr., one of the colony’s most renowned lawyers, and whose writings had once elicited praise from Carroll. The immediate issue was the question of the fee scale for government officers, which had been a bone of contention in Maryland politics for decades. The country party in the legislature had always held that the fees were in essence taxes and thus fell under the legislature’s authority. The propriety party maintained that the fee scale was part of the executive’s prerogative and as such could be unilaterally set by the governor. Upon the expiration in 1770 of the tobacco inspection law—to which the fee scales were tied—the matter came to a head. The lower house of the legislature, dominated by the country party, attempted to bring on a crisis by refusing to pass tobacco legislation before it was dissolved. On November 26, 1770, Governor Robert Eden proclaimed that the fee scale enacted by statute in 1763 would be put into effect.
The governor’s unilateral action ignited anew the debate concerning the nature of the power to set officers’ fees. In its next session in 1771, the lower house of the legislature condemned Eden’s proclamation as illegal and oppressive and accused Eden himself of playing the tyrant by attempting to usurp the legislature’s authority. By 1773, the issue was still not resolved, and in January of that year, Daniel Dulany published a letter in the Maryland Gazette, in which he defended the governor’s action. Dulany’s letter was in the form of a dialogue between the “First Citizen,” who opposed the proclamation, and the “Second Citizen,” who favored it and who got the better of the debate. Dulany must have been surprised when, a month after the publication of his letter, a response appeared in the Gazette by a writer who billed himself “First Citizen” and who boldly challenged Dulany’s arguments. The author was Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Dulany and Carroll each composed a total of four letters during the contest, Carroll’s final letter appearing on July 1, 1773.
At the heart of the debate were differing interpretations of the English constitution. Dulany set himself up as the defender of order and the principle of Parliamentary supremacy—which to Protestant Englishman was the great fruit of the Glorious Revolution and the guarantor of the people’s liberty—and accused Carroll of fomenting anarchy. Carroll painted himself as the zealous defender of liberty and local government against the usurpations of Parliament. Dulany distinguished fees from taxes and claimed that they could be set by the executive branch. The governor’s unilateral imposition of the fee scale, he claimed, actually protected the citizenry by preventing the officers themselves from setting whatever rates they wished. Carroll countered that the fees were a form of taxation, and as such the power to set them lay with the legislature. The executive’s attempt to usurp this power, Carroll warned, “is a measure striking at the root of all liberty.” On its surface local and particular, the controversy obviously had larger implications for the relationship between the mother country and the colonies.
Though the debate in the Gazette was a serious one about lofty constitutional issues, the letters of Antilon and the First Citizen were also filled with personal invective, a history of rivalry between the two families surely intensifying the bitter feelings. Dulany was the first to stoop to mockery and was particularly vicious in his attacks, suggesting, for example, that the younger Carroll yearned for his father’s death so that he might then be free to renounce his Catholicism, thereby furthering his political career. He even ridiculed Carroll’s physical appearance, referring to him repeatedly as a “monkey” because of his slight build. Less cutting, perhaps, but more effective, was Dulany’s questioning of Carroll’s loyalty as a Catholic. “Who is this man, that calls himself a Citizen?” Dulany asked. “Who is he? He has no share in the legislature, as a member of any branch; he is incapable of being a member; he is disabled from giving a vote in the choice of representatives, by the laws and constitution of the country, on account of his principles, which are distrusted by those laws.” Dulany warned Carroll that he would make himself “ridiculous” and “obnoxious” by attempting to appeal to Maryland’s Protestants, whom law and custom had taught to distrust Catholics. “My advice to you,” Dulany bluntly told Carroll, “is to be quiet, and peaceable, and with all due application.”
Carroll angrily replied to Dulany’s ad hominem attacks, claiming that the malice of the charges was evidence enough of the character of the man who made them. He challenged Dulany’s attempt to dismiss his political opinions on account of his religion. Though acknowledging the existence of penal laws that excluded Catholics from officeholding, Carroll asked whether “these disabilities extend so far, as to preclude them from thinking and writing on matters merely of a political nature?” Carroll insisted that his religious opinions were irrelevant to his political principles and that it was the latter that “ought only to be questioned on the present occasion.” In response to Dulany’s question of who the First Citizen was, Carroll took the opportunity to trumpet his economic success as well as his political principles, replying that he was “a man . . . of independent fortune, one deeply interested in the prosperity of his country: a friend to liberty, a settled enemy to lawless prerogative.” Turning a common charge against Catholics back upon Dulany, Carroll suggested that Antilon’s desire to silence the First Citizen and his coreligionists suggested that he “would make a most excellent inquisitor; he has given striking specimens of an arbitrary temper; the first requisite.”
Carroll’s efforts to defend the liberty of the people on the pages of the Gazette made him a hero to the patriots in the Maryland assembly, who serenaded him at his home, and won him notoriety among his fellow Marylanders. During the debate with Dulany, people often pointed to him when he entered a room, exclaiming, “There is the First Citizen!” Still, Charley remained an outsider because of his religious beliefs. The first Maryland Convention—which constituted the provincial government of the colony—passed him over in the fall of 1774 when it selected delegates to the First Continental Congress. Though he accompanied the delegation as an unofficial member, Carroll smarted at the slight, attributing his exclusion from the body to the entrenched religious prejudice of his fellow citizens. “If my countrymen judge me incapable of serving them in a public station for believing the moon to be made of green cheese,” he declared, “in this respect their conduct (if not wicked) is not less absurd than my belief, and I will serve them in a private capacity notwithstanding.” “Nay,” Carroll added, “I have done it.”
Soon, however, the fame of the First Citizen propelled Carroll to leadership of the patriot cause. In November 1774 he became a member of the Committee of Correspondence for Anne Arundel County and Annapolis. Tthe voters of those municipalities also elected him to the committee to enforce the Continental Association and as a member of the Maryland provincial government. Carroll served on other extralegal bodies, such as the Council of Safety and the Committee of Observation. On one occasion, Carroll’s religion actually served to further his political career when, in March 1776, the Continental Congress appointed him to a commission whose purpose was to enlist the support of Catholic Canada for the American cause. Though the mission failed, Carroll’s service on behalf of the Congress enhanced both his local and his national reputation.
The First Citizen letters provided Carroll with an opportunity to proclaim his devotion to the principle of toleration, one of the tenets of Enlightenment Catholicism and a convenient article of faith for members of a minority religion. Though he made no apologies for his religious beliefs, Carroll had been careful in the public controversy with Dulany to reassure his Protestant neighbors that Catholics were friends of toleration. To that end, for example, he agreed with Dulany that the Glorious Revolution, in which the rule of the Catholic James II had been overthrown, was a salutary event. “The nation had a right to resist,” the First Citizen declared, “and to secure its civil and religious liberties.” Of course, Carroll recognized—and surely resented—the Glorious Revolution’s abridgment of Catholic liberty. But as the First Citizen, Carroll conceded the point that James likely intended to force his Catholic beliefs on the English people and insisted that such a linking of church and state was unacceptable to Enlightened Catholics. “I am as averse to having a religion crammed down peoples throats as a proclamation,” Carroll averred. “These are my political principles, in which I glory.” Carroll emphasized that his faith in no way implied hostility toward members of other churches. This was the essence of toleration. “Knaves, and bigots of all sects and denominations I hate, and I despise.” Carroll continued to advocate toleration as the Revolution approached. “I execrate the intollerating spirit of the Church of Rome,” he proclaimed in 1774, “and of other churches.”
Carroll’s commitment to toleration clearly influenced his decision to support American self-government. “To obtain religious, as well as civil liberty,” Carroll wrote in 1827, “I entered zealously into the Revolution.” Chosen as a delegate to the Continental Congress, Carroll eagerly affixed his name to the colonies’ Declaration of Independence. “When I signed the Declaration of Independence,” he purportedly declared late in life, “I had in view not only our independence but the toleration of all sects, professing the Christian religion, and communicating to them all equal rights.” Carroll hoped that the reality of a pluralistic Maryland would necessitate toleration and thus benefit Catholics. “Observing the Christian religion divided into many sects,” Carroll recalled, “I founded the hope that no one would be so predominant as to become the religion of the State.”
Elected in August of 1776 as one of the seventy-eight members of the new Maryland Convention, Carroll sought to enshrine the idea of toleration—which had been a dead letter in Maryland since the overthrow of Catholic rule in the 1690s—in a constitution for Maryland. The Convention appointed Carroll to a Committee of Seven charged with producing a proposal for a constitution and declaration of rights. Carroll’s committee submitted a clause for the declaration of rights which proclaimed “that the rights of conscience are sacred, and all persons professing the Christian religion ought for ever to enjoy equal rights and privileges in the state.” Reminiscent in spirit of the Maryland Toleration Acts of 1639 and 1649, the clause was re-worded by the Committee of the Whole so that in its final form it proclaimed that “all persons professing the Christian religion are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty” and that “no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice.” The Declaration also required officeholders to take an oath professing a belief in Christianity.
Toleration thereby became a reality for Christians of every denomination, including heretofore-persecuted sects like the Quakers, if not for Jews and atheists. But the Declaration did make one concession to non-believers. Though it allowed the legislature to “lay a general and equal tax for the support of the Christian religion,” it permitted taxpayers to designate that their money help the poor rather than any particular church if they so desired. The Declaration further rejected the idea of a state church by prohibiting the government’s compelling anyone to support a particular denomination. However, because Anglicans still constituted a majority in the Convention, a bit of favoritism was shown to the previously established Church of England, whose property was afforded special protection and whose ministers were ensured temporary financial support under existing law. Nevertheless, the new Maryland constitution marked a victory for those men like Carroll who championed toleration and the separation of church and state.
It was the hope of an era of toleration for Catholics coupled with a fear of impending economic disaster that propelled Carroll pere et fils to make the Revolutionary cause their own. The Carrolls also seemed to sense that the Revolution signaled the onset of a new age, into which, the Carrolls, as members of the upper class, instinctively sought to lead their countrymen. Charley, in fact, had nothing but contempt for those elites, like his nemesis Daniel Dulany, who seemed paralyzed by events. “The Union of all America,” the younger Carroll declaimed, “has swallowed him up in the great vortex, he follows its motion, not daring to be the first mover, nor possessing a temper sufficiently intrepid to guide its course: he is carried away with the Whirlwind, he does not ride on it, nor directs the storm.” Carroll, however—following the advice of Machiavelli, whose works he owned—was prepared to use his talents to steer Fate in a direction favorable to himself and his countrymen. Charley became a leader of the movement for independence, perhaps authoring Maryland’s Declaration of Independence of June 28, 1776, and affixing his name to the Continental Congress’ corresponding Declaration of July 4.
In supporting the Revolution, however, the Carrolls were taking a great personal risk. A political revolution could unleash social forces that could not be controlled, and as privileged members of the propertied class, the Carrolls had much to lose. Charley recognized this soon after the American colonies declared their independence, telling Papa that unless “honest men” established order in Maryland, “anarchy will follow as a certain consequence; injustice, rapine & corruption in the seats of justice will prevail, and this Province in a short time will be involved in all the horrors of an ungovernable and revengeful Democracy and will be died with the blood of its best citizens.”
As a member of the Maryland Convention, Charles Carroll of Carrollton did his best to ensure that the Maryland constitution would prevent the rule of the masses by keeping power in the hands of the elite. Charley fretted that “men of desperate fortunes, or of desperate & wicked designs are endeavouring under cloak of procuring great privileges for the People to introduce a levelling scheme, by wh[ich] they (these evil men) are sure to profit.” The proposed Form of Government was clearly designed to thwart the machinations of these men by precluding the common people from the halls of power. The proposed constitution suggested retaining the same property qualifications for voting that had been used under the proprietary government and for the Convention. It mandated property qualifications for officeholding: 500 pounds of real or personal property for the lower house, 1,000 pounds for the Senate, and 5,000 for the governorship. In addition, it stipulated relatively long terms of office for the legislature as well as a system of indirect election to the Senate and governorship. Delegates to the lower house were to serve three-year terms, Senators were to be chosen by an electoral college comprised of property-holders every seven years. The governor was to be elected annually by the legislature.
Submitted to the Convention in the last week of August, the Committee of Seven’s proposals were debated for several weeks, and during this period Charley became increasingly alarmed by the democratic influences within the state and by the critical military situation in which the American colonies found themselves. By the beginning of October, he was close to despair, telling Papa that “our affairs are desperate & nothing but peace with GB on tolerably reasonable terms can save us from destruction.” Even if the colonies somehow prevailed in the conflict with the mother country, “we shall be rent to pieces by civil wars & factions.” Two weeks later, fearful that the Convention was about to reject his committee’s elitist design, Charley told Papa that it was likely that the newly-formed states “will be simple Democracies, of all governts. the worst, and will end as all other Democracies have, in despotism.” In actuality, the Convention adopted the committee’s plan with but two substantive alterations—shortening the lower and upper house’s terms of office to one and five years, respectively.
Though the ratification of the aristocratic constitution seemed to forestall Maryland’s descent into democracy, Maryland’s new authorities soon took radical actions which alarmed the Carrolls and their peers. In an effort to win the support of the populace and finance the war, the Maryland government adopted two measures in 1777 to the detriment of the state’s upper class. The first was a tax bill that weighed heavily on merchants and planters. The second was a legal tender act that allowed debtors to repay loans—originally made in pounds sterling—with depreciated continental and state paper currency at a fixed rate of exchange. The latter was especially galling to the Carrolls, who were the largest creditors in Maryland. In vain, Charley cast the sole dissenting vote against the bill in the Maryland Senate.
The elder Carroll encouraged his son to oppose the legal tender bill, declaring that if such a measure passed the legislature, it would “Surpass in Inequity all the Acts of the British Parliament against America.” The supporters of the bill, Papa fumed, were no better than “Highwaymen and Pickpockets.” But the younger Carroll was more pragmatic in his outlook. “There is a time,” he told his father, “when it is wisdom to yield to injustice, and to popular frensies and delusions: many wise and good men have acted so.” Though Charley agreed with his father that the legislature’s actions were unjust, he worried that more severe measures would be enacted if the wealthy did not acquiesce in some democratic legislation. “When public bodies commit injustice, and are exposed to the public and can not vindicate themselves by reasoning,” he warned Papa, “they commonly have recourse to violence & greater injustice towards all such as have the temerity to oppose them, particularly when their unjust proceedings are popular.” Revolutions always bring such evils, Charley reminded his father, and the best that the Carrolls could expect was to retain the greater part of their estate. “I have long considered our personal estate, I mean the monied part of it, to be in jeopardy,” he wrote. “If we can save a third of that, and all our lands and Negroes I shall think ourselves well off.”
During the next two years, Charley kept his silence about the legal tender act, even as it took its toll on the Carroll fortune. But by the end of 1779, sensible of the deleterious effect of the law, he confided to Papa that “if the war Should continue much longer we may be robbed of our lands, as well as money.” By this time, the younger Carroll believed that the law was no longer necessary. “It is certainly vexatious,” he complained bitterly, “to see onself robbed by a Set of Rascals with impunity, & without any public advantage.” The tender law’s repeal in December of 1780 was a relief to the family and the state’s other creditors.
In October of the following year, Cornwallis was defeated at Yorktown, the war was essentially over, and the need for extreme fiscal measures ended.
Despite the blow of the tax and tender laws, the Carroll family fortune survived the Revolution, and Papa lived long enough to know that the social upheaval which he and Charley had feared did not materialize. On May 30, 1782, at the age of eighty, the elder Carroll fell from a porch at his Annapolis house and died within the hour. Not two weeks later, Charley’s thirty-three-year-old wife, Molly, died following a short illness of unknown cause. The double blow deeply affected Charles, who for the rest of his life missed the guidance of his father and the companionship of a wife. Though he certainly could have become a powerful force in national affairs, Carroll, preferring to give attention to Maryland politics, eschewed a role in the federal constitutional convention of and resigned his seat in the United States Senate in order to remain in the Maryland legislature. His national stature grew as he aged—upon the deaths of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826, he was the sole surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence—but he chose to influence public affairs from a private station. Carroll became a Federalist, was one of the founders of the First and Second Banks of the United States, and was instrumental in the creation of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1828. Always the elitist, he feared that the democratic spirit of the French Revolution would produce tyranny and worried that Jefferson’s victory in the 1800 presidential election might undermine the rights of property and drive wealthy men like himself into exile. He nevertheless made his peace with the dawning Age of Jackson late in life. To the blacksmiths of Baltimore in 1828 he declared that the existence of the republic depended on the “morality, sobriety and industry of the people, and on no part more than on the mechanics, forming in our cities the greatest number of their most useful inhabitants.”
His variable opinion of the masses is not the only incongruity in Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s life and thought. A conservative and quiescent man by temperament, he yet became a revolutionary and public figure because his beliefs compelled him to action. A devout Catholic, he was at the same time an admirer of the atheistic Voltaire. He could sound like a philosophe in his denunciation of the Jesuits, yet he defended members of the Society as friends of liberty. And though he engaged priests to say Mass at the family chapels and was a cousin of John Carroll, the first Roman Catholic bishop of the United States, Charley once referred to priests as “troublesome animals in a family.”
Despite occasional flashes of cynicism, however, Carroll was committed to Roman Catholicism, even if he fell short of perfection in the practice of it. He stressed his devotion to the Church as a youth in letters to his father from Europe, and his faith was based on more than filial obedience. As a man he continued to be a faithful Catholic despite the disadvantages that entailed. Supposing even that Catholicism was untrue, the younger Carroll asked William Graves in 1774, “What, then, do you advise me to quit a false religion and adopt one equally false, and this merely to humour the prejudices of fools, or to be on a footing with knaves? I have too much sincerity and too much pride to do either, even if filial love did not restrain me.” “Upon conviction only a change of religion is desirable,” Carroll opined in 1816. “On a concern so seriously interesting to all of us no worldly motives should sway our conduct.” The younger Carroll was indeed either sincere or proud, for he remained a dutiful Catholic after his father’s death in 1782. As an old man, he implored his only son, whose alcoholism, profligacy, and irreligion, “has nearly extinguished my affection,” to reform his ways and consider the destination of his immortal soul. “The heavens proclaim the existence of God,” Carroll declared to his son, “and unperverted reason teaches that He must love virtue and hate vice, and reward the one and punish the other.”
Carroll’s religious devotion can be gauged partly by his words, but the sincerity of his faith is better measured by his actions. Throughout his public life he defended Catholicism. “Under God,” Bishop Carroll wrote him in 1800, “its chief protection has long been owing to the influence and preponderance of yourself & your venerable Father before you.” Most tellingly, Charles Carroll, like his father and grandfather, refused to compromise religious beliefs in return for political power, eschewing, for example, the tactic often employed by Catholic husbands who—in order to win political rights—converted to Protestantism while their wives and children remained Catholic. Apostasy was simply out of the question for the Carrolls, even if that meant retarding their social and political advancement.
Though uncompromising in their faith, the Carrolls were always careful to avoid unnecessarily antagonizing their Protestant fellow citizens. In 1765, father and son were among a group of 259 Catholic Marylanders who petitioned church authorities to refrain from establishing a Roman Catholic bishop in America. In his First Citizen letters, Carroll was prudent enough to pay deference to Protestant America’s reverence for the Glorious Revolution, and he rejected the Ultramontanist notion that extra ecclesiam, nullus salus (“outside the church there is no salvation”). “I feel no ill will or illiberal prejudices against the sectarians which have abandoned” Roman Catholicism, Charley insisted. “If their lives be comformable to the duties and morals prescribed by the Gospel, I have the charity to hope and believe they will be rewarded with eternal happiness.” But his advocacy of toleration never led him to indifferentism. He was simply “persuaded that there can be but one true religion taught by Christ, and that the RC is that religion.”
Charles Carroll was, above all else, a political and social conservative. In his championing of toleration he did not go so far as to seek equal rights for non-Christians and non-believers, a position which some of his contemporaries, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, favored. His commitment to the idea was largely self-interested and practical. By enshrining the principle of religious freedom in the state’s constitution and thereby returning the laws to the status quo ante of Catholic rule, he hoped to better his family’s and his coreligionists’ prospects. He saw toleration as the only logical policy for governments to adopt. “No persecutions have ever been found effectual in suppression of any religious sect,” he told Graves in 1774, “unless such as will totally exterminate it . . . . Force of all others is certainly the most improper argument to convince the mind—with it those against whom it is employed are apt to conclude that their opinions can not be confuted by other arguments.”
If his position on religious toleration could not be termed radical for its day, then his social attitudes were even more conservative. He was, for example, suspicious of the lower classes during his entire political career, despite some softening of his outlook in his old age. As one of the major architects of the Maryland constitution of 1776, he successfully pushed to create a form of government that kept the levers of power safely out of the hands of the lower classes. Carroll’s elitism predictably blinded him to the horrors of black slavery, the morality of which he rarely considered. In this regard, he did not see the irony of the Oppositionist language he employed in protesting the Stamp Act. “The definition of freedom,” he told his friend Edmund Jennings in 1765, “is the being governed by laws to which we have given our consent, as the definition of slavery is the very reverse.” Despite his education in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of the natural law, Carroll, like nearly all his Maryland peers, failed to overcome the prejudices of the day and recognize that the black slaves whom he owned were human beings worthy of the same dignity enjoyed by whites.
As an old man, Carroll, still scrupulous about his faith, viewed with trepidation the judgment he would soon receive at the hands of God: “Too much of my time and attention have been misapplied on matters to which an impartial judge, penetrating the secrets of heart, before whom I shall soon appear, will ascribe no merit deserving recompense.” Yet Carroll also hoped that his private conduct and his public service would earn him salvation, both in the eyes of his God and in the memory of his countrymen. He perfectly fused the Christian and secular understandings of immortality in a letter to a woman who had published a poem in his honor. “Who are deserving of immortality?” the elderly Marylander opined. “They who serve God in truth, and they who have rendered great, essential, and disinterested services and benefits to their country.” Surely, as Carroll lay on his deathbed on November 14, 1832, he hoped that he had secured eternal life in Heaven and in the memory of his countrymen by living a holy life and by fighting for civil and religious liberty.
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1. In referring to Charles Carroll of Carrollton (CCC) and his father Charles Carroll of Annapolis (CCA), I have chosen to employ the appellations they themselves used in their letters so as to distinguish clearly between the two. Thus, CCC is “Charley” while CCA is “Papa.”
2. CCA to CCC, Feb. 9, 1759, Carroll Papers, MS 220. The Carroll family papers are housed in the Maryland Historical Society. The manuscript designations (MS) below refer to parts of that collection.
3. CCC to CCA, Feb. 30, 1760, Jan. 1, 1761, MS 206.
4. The Irish history of the O’Carrolls is well chronicled in Ronald Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500-1782 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), prologue and chap. 1.
5. CCC to the Countess d’Auzouer, Sept. 20, 1771, MS 203.2.
6. CCS to Charles and Daniel Carroll, July 7, 1719, MS 220.
7. On the change of motto, see CCC to Countess d’Auzouer, September 20, 1771, MS 203.2.
8. On the Toleration Acts, see Thomas O’Brien Hanley, Their Rights and Liberties: The Beginnings of Religious and Political Freedom in Maryland (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1959).
9. Lois Green Carr and David William Jordan, Maryland’s Revolution of Government, 1689-1692 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1974), 6, 37-40. The property qualification required that a man own fifty acres of land or be worth forty pounds in visible estate. Based on her study of Prince George’s County in 1704-1706, Carr concludes that probably two-thirds of Maryland men met the property qualification. See idem., p. 6, fn. 5, and Carr, “County Government in Maryland, 1689-1709,” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1968), 597-599, 601-602.
10. The causes and consequences of Coode’s Rebellion are assessed in Carr and Jordan, Maryland’s Revolution of Government, chap. 6.
11. In 1756, this Charles declared that “there is but one Man in the Province whose Fortune equals mine.” See CCA to CCC, July 26, 1756, MS 220.
12. CCA to CCC, Sept. 1, 1762, MS 206.
13. The fullest and best discussion of the issue of the elder Carroll’s marriage and its legal implications can be found in Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, 131-142. Until the 1970s, Carroll’s biographers generally ignored or were unaware of the circumstances of his birth. See Kate Mason Rowland, The Life and Correspondence of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832, 2 vols. (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1898); Joseph Gurn, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832 (New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1932); Ellen Hart Smith, Charles Carroll of Carrollton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1942); Thomas O’Brien Hanley, Charles Carroll of Carrollton: The Making of a Revolutionary Gentleman (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1970). It was Sally D. Mason who first raised the issue of Charley’s legitimacy in 1975. See Mason, “Charles Carroll of Carrollton and His Family: 1688-1832,” in Ann C. Devanter, ed., “Anywhere So Long as There Be Freedom”: Charles Carroll of Carrollton, His Family and His Maryland (Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1975), 17-18.
In the eyes of the Church, Papa’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth Brooke in February 1757 did indeed legitimate the son, though it was not until 1788 that Maryland law would follow suit. Before their marriage, Papa required that Elizabeth sign a pre-nuptial contract in which she agreed to renounce “all Right Title Claim and Demand to any Dower of the Reall or Personall Estate of the said Charles Carroll” if she survived him, except for a yearly payment of 100 pounds sterling, which amounted to less than one-tenth of Papa’s annual income. Carroll could have required Elizabeth to sign such an agreement prior to Charley’s birth, as she was then legally an adult, and thus his refusal to marry her must have been based on the desire to deny his son any right of inheritance until he had proved himself. See the Carroll-Brooke marriage agreement, November 7, 1756, MS 2018; the marriage articles of Charles Carroll of Annapolis and Elizabeth Brooke, MS 220. Papa also insisted that Charley conclude such a pre-nuptial agreement before he married. See CCA-CCC, Sept. 1, 1762, MS 206. The timing of Papa’s marriage coincides with the first steps of the implementation of his plan to move to Louisiana. Perhaps he was spurred to legitimize his relationship with Elizabeth Brooke by the need to get his affairs in order before contracting with the French government for land in Louisiana. There is no extant copy of CCA’s will, but it was probably composed in 1759. CCC acknowledged the receipt of a copy of his father’s will in 1761. See CCC to CCA, Oct. 13, 1761, MS 206.
14. The Carrolls’ friend, Onorio Rozolini, for example, wrote CCA after the marriage: “I am glad that Miss Brook that was, is now Mrs. Carrill.” Rozolin’s letter also suggests that the marriage was delayed in order that Charley might first prove himself a worthy heir, for the Italian immediately added after his congratulations: “If you remember I told you that your Son would answer all your expectations.” Though Maryland law did not legitimize Charley upon the marriage, the marriage apparently signaled that Papa was ready to write his son into his will. See Onorio Rozolini to CCA, Nov. 17, 1757, MS 206.
15. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, CCA and Elizabeth would have been living in mortal sin, a state which puts their souls in danger of Hell and precludes them from receiving the Eucharist. At the time, it was typical for Catholic laypeople to receive communion only once a year, usually at Easter. The failure to receive the Eucharist at Mass on Easter would probably not have gone unnoticed by their fellow congregants and certainly not by the priest, but it is impossible to know what conclusions might have been drawn. Perhaps Papa and Elizabeth received communion without regard to the state of their souls.
16. Under Maryland law it was illegal for Catholics to establish their own schools in the colony and to send their children abroad for education, but these laws were rarely enforced. Papa had also attended the Jesuit college at Douai, France. On the program of education at St. Omer’s and the English College at Douai, see Thomas E. Muir, Stonyhurst College, 1593-1993 (London: James and James, 1992), 157; A.C.F. Beales, Education Under Penalty: English Catholic Education from the Reformation to the Fall of James II, 1547-1689 (London: Athlone Press, 1963), 131-148; Hanley, The Making of a Revolutionary Gentleman, chap. 2; Joseph P. Chinnici, The English Catholic Enlightenment: John Lingard and the Cisalpine Movement, 1780-1850 (Shepherdstown, MD: Patmos Press, 1980), 6-7.
17. CCA to CCC, July 14, 1760, MS 220.
18. CCA to CCC, Jan. [9?], 1760, MS 220.
19. CCC to CCA, Sept. 24, 1750, MS 206.
20. CCC to CCA, Feb. 19, 1763, MS 206.
21. CCA to CCC, Oct. 9, 1752, MS 220.
22. CCC to his parents, February 17, 1759, MS 206.
23. CCA to CCC, Aug. 30, 1758, MS 220.
24. CCC to CCA, Jan. 17, 1759, MS 206.
25. See CCA to CCC, May 1, 1760 and April 8, 1762, MS 220.
26. CCA to CCC, Sept. 30, 1754, MS 220.
27. CCC to CCA, Oct. 22, 1761, MS 206.
28. Pauline Maier argues that the younger Carroll’s Catholicism “was suffused by the rationalism of the Enlightenment.” See Maier, “Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Dutiful Son and Revolutionary Politician,” in The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980), 254. Ronald Hoffman agrees with this, as does Micahel T. Parker. See Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, 155-156; Parker, “‘The Fittest Season for Reading’: The Library of Charles Carroll of Carrollton” (master’s thesis, University of Maryland, 1990), 29. Though both Maier and Hoffman emphasize the Carrolls’ devotion to the thought of the Enlightenment, they at least take the Carrolls’ Catholicism seriously. The same cannot be said for Parker, who paints the younger Carroll as a reluctant Catholic, “who felt trapped by his Irish-Catholic heritage and the tradition of resistance to anti- Catholic laws that the Carroll family had come to symbolize.” Parker even wonders why Charley did not convert to Anglicanism. See Parker, “‘The Fittest Season for Reading,’” 29-30. On the other extreme is Donald D’Elia, who depicts Charley as nothing short of a saint, a Catholic crusader who rejected the Enlightenment in toto and who secretly yearned for the establishment of a united Christendom under the Pope. See “Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Catholic Revolutionary,” in The Spirits of ’76: A Catholic Inquiry (Front Royal, VA: Christendom Publications, 1983).
29. See Parker, “‘The Fittest Season for Reading,’” for a comprehensive listing and analysis of Charley’s library.
30. CCC to CCA, Oct. 22, 1761, MS 206.
31. CCC to CCA, Aug. 8, 1763, MS 206.
32. CCA to CCC, Apr. 8, 1762, MS 220.
33. See Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 3 vols. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947), 1:1008-1022.
34. CCC to William Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2
35. On the Catholic Enlightenment, see Chinnici, The English Catholic Enlightenment.
36. CCC to CCA, Jan. 17, 1759, MS 206.
37. CCC, June 25, 1827, quoted in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:354.
38. CCC to CCA, Jan. 17, 1759, MS 206.
39. CCC to Charles Carroll of Homewood, July 1, 1809, MS 203; John Carroll to Matthew Carey, June 6, 1789, in The John Carroll Papers, ed. Thomas O’Brien Hanley, S.J., 3 vols. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976), 1:365.
40. CCA to CCC, Apr. 8, 1762, MS 220.
41. CCC to CCA, Aug. 8, 1763, MS 206.
42. CCC to CCA, Jan. 17, 1759, MS 206.
43. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 2:1646, 1:1014.
44. On Sidney, see Scott A. Nelson’s introduction to his edition of Sidney’s Discourses Concerning Government (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993). On the roots of resistance theory in Western thought, see Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 2:chaps. 5, 6, 9, passim; Paul K. Conkin, Self-Evident Truths (Bloomington, IL: Indiana University Press, 1974), 5-6. “Had Americans been so inclined,” Conkin asserts, “they could have found almost as many needed rationalizations for their independence in Aquinas as in Locke.”
45. CCC to CCA, June 14, 1763, MS 206.
46. CCC to CCA, June 14, 1763, MS 206.
47. CCC to Graves, September 15, 1765, MS 206.
48. CCA to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, June 7, 1778, MS 206.
49. CCC to the Countess d’Auzouer, Sept. 20, 1771; CCC to Edmund Jennings, Aug. 9, 1771, MS 203.2.
50. CCC to Graves, September 15, 1765, MS 206.
51. CCC to Jennings, Aug. 13, 1767, MS 203.1.
52. CCA to Graves, December 23, 1768, MS 206.
53. CCA to CCC, April 8, 1762, MS 206.
54. CCC to Graves, Sept. 15, 1765; CCC to [Thomas] Bradshaw, Nov. 21, 1765, MS 203.1.
55. CCC to Bradshaw, Nov. 21, 1765, MS 203.1.
56. CCC to Bradshaw, Nov. 21, 1765, MS 203.1. In their belief that the British political system was thoroughly corrupted, the Carrolls revealed a debt to the thought of Henry St. John, First Viscount Bolingbroke, the leader of the English Oppositionists and Walpole’s main antagonist. Charley owned several works by Bolingbroke, including Some Reflections on the Present State of the Nation, which argued that the English Parliament and Constitution were being corrupted by “stock-jobbers.” See Parker, “‘The Fittest Season for Reading,’” 90-91. On Bolingbroke and Oppositionist thought, see Rodger D. Parker, “The Gospel of Opposition: A Study in Eighteenth-Century Anglo-American Ideology” (Ph.D. dissertation, Wayne State University, 1975); Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke and His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the Age of Walpole (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968).
57. See Thomas O’ Brien Hanley, Revolutionary Statesman: Charles Carroll and the War (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1983), 411. Two sections of De Sales’ work are relevant here: “The Poverty of Spirit to be Observed in the Midst of Riches” and “How to Practice Genuine Poverty although Really Rich.” See St. Francis De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, trans. John K. Ryan (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 32-37.
58. CCC to Graves, Sept. 15, 1765, MS 206.
59. CCC to CCA, Sept. 16, 1760, MS 206.
60. Charles Carroll to Graves, August 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
61. CCC to Daniel Carroll, Mar. 17, 1766, in Thomas Meagher Field, ed., Unpublished Letters of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and His Father, Charles Carroll of Doughoregan (New York: United States Catholic Historical Society, 1902), 110. It should be noted that Field’s volume is notoriously inaccurate and has thus been used sparingly and with caution.
62. CCA to CCC, Apr. 16, 1761, MS 220. For more on the Louisiana scheme, see Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, 275-278.
63. CCC to CCA, February 30, 1760; Sept. 16, 1760, MS 206.
64. CCC to Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
65. CCC to CCA, Mar. 15, 1777, MS 206.
66. On Catholic participation in the Revolution, see Charles H. Metzger, Catholics and the American Revolution: A Study in Religious Climate (Chiacgo: Loyola University Press, 1962).
67. Peter S. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 1773: The Antilon-First Citizen Letters (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1974), 56.
68. William Blackstone, Commentaries of the Laws of England: A Facsimile of the First Edition of 1765-1769, intro. Stanley N. Katz, 5 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 1:42. Carroll’s library contained an edition of Blackstone’s famous work.
69. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 95.
70. On the fee controversy, see Charles Albro Barker, The Background of the Revolution in Maryland (Boston: Yale University Press, 1940; reprint, Archon Books, 1967), 344-350.
71. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 220.
72. For a full and excellent analysis of the constitutional issues involved in the debate, see Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 16-39.
73. For Dulany’s attack, see Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 73-74; Carroll’s response is found on 79. See also Carroll’s reference to the charge on 125. It ought to be note here that the younger Carroll remained a faithful Catholic even after his father’s death in 1782.
74. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 75, 120. Carroll was keenly aware of his physical deficiency, to which he often made references in his letters. See, for example, CCC to CCA, May 1, 1764, MS 206, in which Charley mentions his “thin & puny habit of body.”
75. Onuf, Maryland and the Empire, 122.
76. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 123.
77. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 226.
78. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 126.
79. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 126.
80. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 226.
81. CCA to CCC, Mar. 17, 1773, MS 206.
82. CCC to Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
83. The other members of the commission were Carroll’s cousin, John Carroll, who would become the first American Catholic bishop, Samuel Chase, and Benjamin Franklin. Carroll kept a journal of the mission to Canada. See Branz Meyer, ed., Journal of Charles Carroll of Carrollton During His Visit to Canada in 1776 (Baltimore, 1876).
84. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 226.
85. Onuf, ed., Maryland and the Empire, 226.
86. CCC to Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
87. To Rev. John Stanford, Oct. 9, 1827, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:358.
88. Quoted in Joseph Gurn, Charles Carroll, 51.
89. To Rev. John Stanford, Oct. 9, 1827, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:358. It should be noted that no manuscript copies of these last three letters have been found.
90. For the provisions of the Maryland Constitution of 1776, see H.H. Walker Lewis, ed., The Maryland Constitution 1776 (Baltimore, MD: Maryland State Bar Association, 1976), 57-90, quotation on p. 40.
91. Lewis, ed., The Maryland Constitution, 62.
92. Lewis, ed., The Maryland Constitution, 62-63; quotation is on p. 63. Carroll and his coreligionists remained wary of attempts by Anglicans to favor their denomination at the expense of other Christian sects. In 1785, at the behest of Samuel Chase, the Maryland House of Delegates considered a bill, pursuant to the state constitution, that proposed levying a tax for the support of Christian ministers. Carroll, then serving in the Maryland Senate, opposed the clergy bill as an attempt to favor the Episcopal Church, and it never became law. Forrest McDonald argues that Chase promoted the measure, which generated a great deal of debate in Maryland newspapers, to distract the public from his own self-serving machinations. See Forrest McDonald, Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1985), 43-44. Though the bill may have served Chase’s purpose despite its eventual defeat, Carroll probably took great delight in thwarting Chase, for the two men, who had been political allies during the creation of the Maryland constitution, had by 1785 become bitter rivals. On the Carroll-Chase rivalry, see Philip Crowl, Maryland During and After the Revolution: A Political and Economic Study (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1943), passim and esp. 96-101.
93. CCC to CCA, Oct. 26, 1774, MS 206.
94. Carroll actually signed the document at the official ceremony on August 2.
95. CCC to CCA, Aug. 20, 1776, MS 206.
96. CCC to CCA, August 23, 1776, MS 206.
97. Lewis, ed., The Maryland Constitution, 43.
98. CCC to CCA, [Oct.] 4, 1776, MS 206.
99. CCC to CCA, Oct. 18, 1776, MS 206.
100. CCA to CCC, Mar. 13, 1777, MS 206.
101. CCC to CCA, Nov. 13, 1777, MS 206.
102. CCC to CCA, Nov. 13, 1777, MS 206.
103. CCC to CCA, Apr. 4, 1777, MS 206.
104. CCC to CCA, Dec. 4, 1779, MS 206.
105. CCC to CCA, Dec. 4, 1779, MS 206.
106. Carroll did not attend the constitutional convention because he feared the intrigues of his political rival Samuel Chase on the Maryland political scene. See Ronald Hoffman, A Spirit of Dissension: Economics, Politics, and the Revolution in Maryland (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), 268.
107. Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:195; CCC to CCH, Oct. 23 and Nov. 2, 1800, MS 203; Carroll’s reply to the address of the Blacksmiths’ Association, July 15, 1828, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:361.
108. CCC to CCA, Oct. 30, 1769, MS 206.
109. CCC to Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
110. CCC to Harriet Chew Carroll, Aug. 29, 1816, quoted in Gurn, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 191.
111. CCC to Charles Carroll of Homewood, May 15, 1814, MS 203; CCC to CCH, Apr. 12, 1821, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:327.
112. John Carroll to CCC, July 15, 1800, in Hanley, The John Carroll Papers, 2:310.
113. CCC to Harriet Chew Carroll, Aug. 29, 1816, quoted in Gurn, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 191.
114. CCC to Harriet Chew Carroll, Aug. 29, 1816, quoted in Gurn, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 191.
115. CCC to Graves, Aug. 15, 1774, MS 203.2.
116. Commenting on Philadelphia publisher Robert Walsh’s creation of an antislavery magazine in 1820, Carroll asked, in a letter to his son-in-law, “But why keep alive the question of slavery? It is admitted by all to be a great evil; let an effectual mode of getting rid of it be pointed out, or let the question sleep forever.” CCC to Robert Goodloe Harper, Apr. 23, 1820, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2: 320.
117. CCC to Jennings, November 23, 1765, MS 203.1.
118. In 1773 the Carrolls owned 386 slaves. On the Carrolls’ attitude toward and treatment of their slaves, see Hoffman, Princes of Ireland, 250-257. The Catholic Church at the time did not condemn the institution of slavery, but only required that masters treat their slaves with Christian charity. It is unknown whether the Carrolls, like other masters, ever proselytized their slaves.
119. CCC to CCH, Sept. 1825, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:336.
120. CCC, Sept. 14, 1826, in Rowland, Life and Correspondence, 2:346. On the Founders’ desire for fame, see Douglass Adair, “Fame and the Founding Fathers,” in Fame and the Founding Fathers: Essays by Douglass Adair (New York: W.W. Norton, 1974; reprint, Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 1998).
The featured image a portrait of Charles Carroll by Michael Laty (c. 1846) and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.